Interactivity and the Web

This week we explored The Lost Museum created by the American Social History Project and then read the article, “History and the Web, From the Illustrated Newspaper to Cyberspace: Visual Technologies and Interaction in the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries” by Joshua Brown. In his essay, Brown discusses the creation of the interactive website for the Lost Museum as well as the overall concept of interactivity on the web. The essay, as Brown mentions, is a self-critical analysis of his and other multi-media creator’s works. It also is a reaction to Janet Murry’s 1997 study, “Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace.” In her study, she finds that  current websites are a kind of “‘multimedia scrapbooks’ composed of a compendium of linked older forms (whether text, image, film or audio)”. Brown implies that Murry likely concludes that this is a bad thing and operates in the rest of his essay that this is the case and he is working towards finding a new type of media that is completely web specific.

I would suggest that the “scrapbook” quality of multimedia, is actually a good thing. Having several different formats for viewers to use in order to learn, is helpful. Also, using older forms of media helps viewers feel comfortable in their use. This is not to say that the web should not evolve as every form of media does. The answer, however, does not need to completely turn away from the amalgamation of previous types of media. Brown, I think, comes to the same conclusion, to a degree. He added a link to search the archives for the Lost Museum website. Now it is possible to experience it in 3-D as originally intended and to read the text and view photos which allows for a more comprehensive experience. Perhaps someday a completely unique web-specific media will exist and we should not stop trying to find it. I hope though, that we are able to enjoy the process and appreciate what we do have now as well as what we had yesterday and what we will have tomorrow.

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